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Global fisheries, aquaculture production reaches a new record high – FAO

World fisheries and aquaculture production has hit a new high, with aquaculture production of aquatic animals surpassing capture fisheries for the first time, according to a new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The 2024 edition of The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) released Sunday, said global fisheries and aquaculture production in 2022 surged to 223.2 million tonnes, a 4.4 percent increase from the year 2020. Production comprised 185.4 million tonnes of aquatic animals and 37.8 million tonnes of algae.

“FAO welcomes the significant achievements thus far, but further transformative and adaptive actions are needed to strengthen the efficiency, inclusiveness, resilience and sustainability of aquatic food systems and consolidate their role in addressing food insecurity, poverty alleviation and sustainable governance,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu.

“That’s why FAO advocates Blue Transformation, to meet the overall requirements of better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, leaving no one behind.”

In 2022 and for the first time in history, aquaculture surpassed capture fisheries as the main producer of aquatic animals. Global aquaculture production reached an unprecedented 130.9 million tonnes, of which 94.4 million tonnes are aquatic animals, 51 percent of the total aquatic animal production. 

Aquaculture growth indicates its capacity to further contribute to meeting the rising global demand for aquatic foods, but future expansion and intensification must prioritise sustainability and benefit regions and communities most in need. 

At present, a small number of countries dominate aquaculture. Ten of them – China, Indonesia, India, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Norway, Egypt, and Chile – produced over 89.8 percent of the total. But many low-income countries in Africa and Asia are not using their full potential. Targeted policies, technology transfer, capacity building and responsible investment are crucial to boost sustainable aquaculture where it is most needed, especially in Africa.

Record production of aquatic foods underlines the sector’s potential in tackling food insecurity and malnutrition. Global apparent consumption of aquatic animal foods reached 162.5 million tonnes in 2021. This figure has increased at nearly twice the rate of the world population since 1961, with global per capita annual consumption rising from 9.1 kg in 1961 to 20.7 kg in 2022. 

Of total aquatic animal production, 89 percent was used for direct human consumption, underscoring the critical role of fisheries and aquaculture in maintaining global food security. The rest was destined for indirect or non-food uses, mainly fishmeal and fish oil production. 

Supporting further consumption from sustainable sources is crucial to foster healthy diets and improve nutrition worldwide. Aquatic foods provide high-quality proteins – 15 percent of animal proteins and 6 percent of total proteins worldwide – and key nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins. In 2021, they contributed at least 20 percent of the per capita protein supply from all animal sources to 3.2 billion people.